Whangārei student Raivyn-Skye Tangariki-Pou started out in the kitchen standing on a chair sifting flour.
Now the 18-year-old Kamo High School student has received a McDonald's Te Tai Tokerau scholarship worth $12,500 to study a Bachelor of Culinary Arts at Auckland University of Technology next year.
"I was happy but it wasn't sinking in. It's like 'did I really just win $12,500? Is this actually happening'," Tangariki-Pou said.
Tangariki-Pou is from a large family. She has nine other siblings and they frequently catered for family gatherings.
"I've always loved being in the kitchen. That's where you have the most laughs and that's where I've made most of my really strong family connections - in the kitchen or doing whatever you need to do.
"I do it every day, it's been my life - why not make a career out of it," she said.
Tangariki-Pou said she likes to change it up in the kitchen as eating the same food gets boring after a while, but she also likes to use recipes she grew up on.
"I love seeing the way people react. When someone eats something good and nice it fills a hole, it makes you feel good."
Tangariki-Pou said she started in the kitchen at a "very young age" but developed her skills at high school.
"We all start out with standing on the chair, sifting the flour, and then you get trusted more to make the whole cake," she said.
Last year, Tangariki-Pou entered a regional and national culinary competition. In the regional competition, she received a bronze medal for her carrot cracker with a cream cheese and salmon dip and a salsa. For the national competition, she received a silver for her deconstructed butter chicken with carrot bhaji.
Tangariki-Pou said when she graduates from university she would like to open her own restaurant or lunch bar.
"I'd like it somewhere close to here. I think that's always everybody's plan, to come back to where it all started. I'm sure the people at home would like to see it here anyway."